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Monuments Made of Words: Text and Architecture, from Antiquity to Modernity

From Horace’s odes to the sonnets of Shakespeare and beyond, the idea that the written word outlasts even the grandest of monuments has long been a literary topos. In the case of antiquity it rings particularly true. Despite their apparent vulnerability during centuries of transmission in manuscript form, classical accounts of architecture have almost always outlived their subjects; of brick and stone, often only words survive. This conference seeks to explore the diverse content and legacy of ancient descriptions of architecture. Modern studies have tended to concentrate on specific accounts or periods. The present conference addresses a much broader selection of classical texts and the various ways they were perceived over a wider geographical compass and timeframe. It situates these accounts – such as Greek reports of architecture in the Near East and Latin poetry on the architectural wonders of Rome – within the intellectual and aesthetic discourse of their time but also, importantly, in the context of later ages, when they came to fire the imagination of new generations of architects, artists, writers and scholars. With contributions drawn from an international group of scholars, ranging from classicists to architectural historians and specialists in other fields, the intention of this conference is to elicit a richer understanding of the contribution of these ‘literary monuments’ to thought and visual culture from antiquity onwards, as well as of the dialogues between these monuments over time.
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SAH thanks The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation Fund at The Chicago Community Foundation for its operating support.
Society of Architectural Historians
1365 N. Astor Street
Chicago, Illinois 60610
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